But there was one book that seemed unique to my list - Jay Boyar’s Be A Magician!
I’m sure Mr. Boyar’s book was not a big part of many magician’s lists. But as a young and budding magician, I checked it out of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library countless times.
I never owned a copy as a kid. In fact, in all my years in magic, I had never seen a copy for sale or even heard another magician mention it. But several months ago, I tracked down an old copy from a used book dealer. It holds up - and paging through it has reminded me of why it was so special.
Jay Boyar was a writer originally from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. The book contains many photos and references to the local magic scene and area magicians. Although, I must admit I’m not sure I realized that at the time. I was only about 10 years old after all and I’m not certain I even understood what a “local magic scene” was.
The book was illustrated by Tom Toles, a political cartoonist whose distinctive style was featured in The Buffalo News during the time of the book’s release. Toles later accepted a position in The Washington Post, where his work became syndicated across the United States. While the rest of the world remembers Toles as a Pulitzer Prize winning political commentator. I’ll always remember him for the remarkable illustrations he did for that book.
I am not overstating facts when I say many of those images have stayed burned in my memory for decades. The drawings were not only reflective of his inimitable style, but they also featured unique perspectives and imagery. Even as a young magician it always stood out to me that many of the illustrations featured female magicians, an uncommon find in magic books even today.
Pretty heady stuff for a book aimed at elementary school children!
There was something about the combination Boyar’s writing style and Tole’s singular illustrations that struck a chord with me. It didn’t feel like the book was writing down to meet me at my level but instead challenging me to stretch myself to reach it. It may very well have been the first time I understood that magic was a collection of skills and abilities that went well beyond knowing a method. Even now, flipping back through its pages – I’m inspired.
It's funny how much of our lives can be directed by tiny movements in the wind.
Walking into an interesting shop.
Meeting an unexpected person.
Or picking up a book off a shelf.
I’m forever grateful for them all - and to all the people who taught me how to adjust my sails.
Be a magician? That sounds like a pretty grand idea.